Sticky-fingered journalists on Air Force One put on notice

The US president is accompanied by a group of 13 White House journalists when he travels on Air Force One (POOL)
The US president is accompanied by a group of 13 White House journalists when he travels on Air Force One (POOL)

Normally they're the ones grilling Washington power players. But the tables have been turned on the White House press corps.

A news report made waves Friday in the US capital with its humorous -- but detailed -- investigation into rampant theft from the press section of Air Force One, the president's official plane.

"For years, scores of journalists -- and others -- have quietly stuffed everything from engraved whiskey tumblers to wine glasses to pretty much anything with the Air Force One insignia on it into their bag before stepping off the plane," Politico reported.

Last month, the White House Correspondents' Association sent an email to its members, issuing a stern notice that missing items from the press cabin -- kept by reporters as memorabilia -- had not gone unnoticed.

When the US president travels, he is accompanied by 13 journalists in the back of his Boeing.

Media outlets pay for the journalists to fly on the government plane, along with the meals and drinks served in-flight.

The crew distributes as souvenirs small packages of M&M's chocolates bearing the presidential seal and the US leader's signature. Glasses and other Air Force One-branded accessories are available for purchase online.

But that is not good enough for many of those aboard the plane, Politico's report noted, describing the sounds of plates and glassware clinking in journalists' backpacks as they disembark.

In one instance, a former White House correspondent for a major newspaper hosted a dinner party, serving food on a set of gold-rimmed Air Force One plates that had been pilfered over time, according to the report.

But in a town of ambitious strivers, at least one journalist heeded the scolding from the correspondents' association -- culminating in the "discreet return" of an embroidered pillowcase after a meeting was arranged between the reporter and a press official in a park across from the White House, Politico said.

"The pillowcase changed hands, and that was that."